Fantastic Places and Where to Find them

A number of studies are out that try to measure how different parts of the U.S. are faring economically, and what that means for job prospects.  One of these studies, which found a small number of cities and towns doing well while many others fall behind, is worth looking at if you’re trying to start your career.

One study by the Economic Innovation Group found that, despite millions of jobs being added in the past ten years since the recession ended many areas in the U.S. are being left behind.  According to the study, more than half the jobs created in the 2010-2015 period went to the top performing 20% of areas, while the rest of the country split up the rest.   No surprise, the lowest performing areas actually lost jobs.

What are these areas?  Well the winners include suburbs of Phoenix, Plano, Texas, Irvine, California, and technology hubs San Francisco and Seattle.  The areas faring worst?  Former industrial hubs like Cleveland, Newark, N.J., and Buffalo, and depressed cities in the south like Memphis, Tennessee.  Data from the Labor Department reach a similar conclusion:  neither job gains or wage gains are being spread across workers in equal amounts.

Is career success all based on where you live?  Or asked differently, can you avoid a slow moving career by living in a high growth city?  A recent article in the Wall Street Journal seems to say yes.  In the article, Jay Shambaugh, former economic adviser to President Barack Obama, said that, “workers have less bargaining power due to a decline in unionization, increased foreign competition, and the reluctance of workers to move for better paying jobs.”*

That makes it sound like moving might be your best option.  Why?  It’s the only one you can take charge of and do on your own.  Forming a union is not practical, and joining a union in a depressed area isn’t likely to lead anywhere fast – no more than globalization is likely to reverse course even with a President Trump in office.

But before you pack your bags consider this.  Many people are thriving in these so called ‘economically depressed’ areas by performing roles that are different than what those locations are known for.   Sure, the jobs aren’t coming as fast as some places, and may not reach their former heyday, but the role that’s right for you might actually thrive in your own backyard.
So before you pack up, find your fit.  Choosing your career is one of the most important decisions you can make and success, defined simply as your own engagement in your job, depends more on finding the right fit and how serious you are about your career than where you live.  First pick your path, then go find it.

“Real Wages Keep Powering Ahead, but Can the Trend Last?”, by Eric Morath,
wall Street Journal, September 24, 2017

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